Nasan Tur

The Unknown Knight, 2011

Armouries have been used to store weapons, ammunitions and military equipment all over Europe since the 15th century. Fearing military threats and incursions from beyond its borders, Styria introduced a tax in 1480 in order to fund the installation of arsenals and also the recruitment of troops.The more than 32,000 items of military equipment were stored centrally in the Styrian Provincial Armoury. Master builder Anton Solar was commissioned by the Styrian representatives of the estates of the realm to build the five-storey, 52-metre-long building in the centre of Graz in 1642–1644. Today, the Armoury is the world’s largest surviving arsenal. The only artistic adornments on the early baroque bossage portal in Herrengasse are the monumental statues of the ancient deities Mars (war) and Minerva (defence and strategy) flanking the Styrian panther.


To mark the 200th anniversary of the Joanneum Universal Museum in 2011, an invited competition was held dealing with the extant historical conception of Graz as a “bulwark against the (south-)east”

and the image built up during this period of the Turks as a perceived enemy and blown-up threat, with the work submitted by the Berlin based German-Turkish artist Nasan Tur being selected for realisation.


Starting out from stereotypes, preconceived prejudices with ingrained clichés, and the collective unconscious fed and informed by such stereotypes, and the classical concept of sculpture, Nasan Tur

developed a bronze figure on a plinth, an extended form of expression: Aware of the fact that history is constructed, he completely refashioned the figure of the unknown knight, whose own history and origin, his life and work, appear mysterious. The aim is not only to rethink history, to reinvent the past, and to reconceive and redefine the human being in terms of his uniqueness, but also to enable an awareness of the way in which we deal with our time.


In two bronze casts of the artist, one a sleeping figure, the other upright, clothed or “protected” merely by the cast of a helmet, a cuirass and, on the upright figure, a sword – casts of toy armour parts of cardboard available from the Armoury shop – the work deals with individuality, anonymity, exposing one’s own personality, and total vulnerability.


The knight asleep on the roof of the Armoury is exposed to all attacks, while at the same time affording protection through his constant, non-violent presence. As a statue, on the one hand this conforms to the classical heroic bronze sculpture, but, his face being concealed, the knight’s identity is obscured, thereby addressing the vulnerability of the mind. Naked and unprotected as the knight is, the sword appears to be more a reference to the vulnerability of the body rather than a weapon. This knight was originally located in Griesgasse on the right bank of the river Mur. The armour, helmet, sword, cuirass and shield were cast off as a token of the ambivalence between being a symbol of disappearance and disarming and as a dehumanised relic as a sign of violence. The sculpture was originally set up alongside the Turk’s Well on the Schlossberg hill. The piece does not seek to be an oversized monumental memorial, to demonstrate power or superiority, focusing instead on the unheroicness and vulnerability of the human being.


Parallel to this, Nasan Tur tried to make contact with those who write new history, but as yet lack historical awareness. He looked for children to formulate and retell new possibilities regarding the

existence and the whereabouts of the unknown knight in stories, thus writing new history. Some of these stories were compiled in a book. Because permanent installation of the work in public space

was not approved, the separate elements of this complex piece have now been brought together in the entrance area of the Armoury, from where they are intended to radiate their effect with the aim of focusing on borders, wars or the construction of stereotyped images of the enemy, as a monument of

humanity, encouraging people to devise new legends. Politics of memory is, after all, not a process which belongs to the past, but rather an issue which concerns our present and future.



Opening and book presentation: 01.09.2011, 5 pm


Venue: Graz, in front of Landeszeughaus, Herrengasse 16


Speakers: Dr. Elisabeth Fiedler - Head of the Institute for Art in Public Space Styria, Nasan Tur - Artist, Mag. Dr. Karin Sprachmann - Municipal Councillor



The children´s book "The Unknown Knight" was published at the Revolver Verlag and can be bought at the shops of the Universalmuseum Joanneum.


A project of the Institute for Art in Public Place Styria in cooperation with the Styrian Armoury at the Universalmuseum Joanneum and CLIO.   


Art in Public Space

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